Venezuela, US, UN

In an early February issue, the Economist posited a tempting observation. A colossal portrait of Juan Guaido, partially recognized as the interim President of Venezuela, was titled ‘The battle for Venezuela’ on the cover. Meant to underscore the struggle of the embattled leader, the magazine asserted that the battle for Venezuela is a battle over a significant idea that, ‘when a leader pillages his state, oppresses his people and subverts the rule of law, it is everybody’s business’.

The discourse over the idea does merit scholarship as we apparently enter the post-unipolar world where regional and international powers are vying for influence and testing their national strengths, amongst various non-state actors, in different parts of the globe. If we rephrase the observation into a question, asking whether it is everybody’s business, it might assist us greatly in assessing the idea analytically.

In interest of inquiry, it is imperative to view history as a guide by factoring in the case studies of previous United States (US) interventions in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, in context of current attempts of intervention in Venezuela. These previous interventions rested upon similar ideas of global security, humanitarian assistance, and democracy. Therefore, a review of history will benefit our inquiry into whether the current intervention could motivate a different result.

The crisis in Venezuela is borne more out of endogenous rather than exogenous factors that continue to adversely impact political and economic governance in the country. America’s role in repeated interventions, and now the application of sanctions  does factor into the economic woes of Venezuela. However it comes down to President Maduro and his clique who did not reform the economy in a timely manner when oil prices were high, instead concentrating too much power in certain state institutions.

Even international, and some regional powers who are supporting President Nicolas Maduro are not contesting the deleterious statistics pertinent to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, now  diffused across the region.

The crisis in Venezuela is borne more out of endogenous rather than exogenous factors that continue to adversely impact political and economic governance in the country.

President Maduro’s autocracy had been in full gear as he cruised to the helm of Venezuelan affairs after the death of the ‘still-charismatic’ socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The severe economic mismanagement, institutionalized cronyism, rampant criminality under the watchful eyes of state institutions and deprivation of basic human rights of the Venezuelan people are prominent features of President Maduro and have contributed to large outflows of refugees to neighbouring countries.

Though the charisma of the late socialist Chavez still resonates with the people, apprehensions and protests over whether the revolution has come full circle under President Maduro’s disastrous management of the state and its extensive energy resources are widespread.

Yet, despite the tragic and dichotomous nature of the crisis, the US approach of strong arming the Venezuelan state into accepting the self-proclaimed interim President, Juan Guaido, who is also the President of National Assembly of Venezuela, is tantamount to a serious breach of national sovereignty.

The American approach to the crisis is reminiscent of its previous attempts for regime change in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. The modus operandi follows a distinct pattern; starting of with motivating a mutiny in the armed forces and creating a parallel fighting force to augment the opposition. The opposition also comprises members who defect from the ruling regime, effectively pitting state institutions against each other and calling for an intervention when the ruling regime suppresses the organized dissension.

Yet, despite the tragic and dichotomous nature of the crisis, the US approach of strong arming the Venezuelan state into accepting the self-proclaimed interim President, Juan Guaido, who is also the President of National Assembly of Venezuela, is tantamount to a serious breach of national sovereignty.

Although certain segments of people were indeed dissatisfied with the status quo in those countries, foreign interventions were planned around the hijacking of popular revolt in cases of Libya and Syria and capitalization on popular rage in case of Iraq. However three prominent features should be kept in mind by Washington planners as to why, or if, any military intervention occurs in Venezuela, it might end up like Syria rather than Iraq or Libya.

First, unlike Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Syria’s Bashar ul-Assad and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro have forged important international partnerships throughout the world. Unlike, Gaddafi and Hussein, they did not isolate themselves by pursuing pan-regional agendas.

Second, the issue of balance of power comes into play. The US unilaterally intervened in Iraq when the world was largely unipolar and feared  American diplomatic and political backlash. In Libya, the US formed a strategic partnership with Britain and France to launch a ‘humanitarian intervention’.

By the time of these interventions, the leadership in both cases had significantly lost their legitimacy in the eyes of the world. In stark contrast, Assad’s Syria and Maduro’s Venezuela continue to be represented at all multilateral forums including the United Nations (UN) as national entities and enjoin international support from a broad array of emerging powers.

The third feature is the regional context. Unlike Latin America, the Middle East has historically been and continues to remain turbulent, thus violence is the ‘normal’ where state actors pursue hyper-realpolitik instead of addressing concerns for regional stability and security. Up to this moment, no regional nation favours a military intervention in Venezuela. However, as the situation evolves, the political mood in the region is shifting in favour of intervention instead of contemplating a political solution.

When Juan Guaido proclaimed himself as interim President of Venezuela in late January 2019, the US swiftly recognized him while some regional and international actors followed suit in the subsequent weeks.

But the political attempt to overthrow President Maduro suffered a blowback as the UN called for mediation, and some regional states and significant international powers came out in strong support of his government, including the geopolitical powerhouses of China, Russia, and Turkey.

Thereafter, the second blowback to the attempt of illegitimately toppling President Maduro came when, in late February 2019, Mr. Guaido unsuccessfully tried to deliver humanitarian aid by the US into Venezuela through Columbia. Scenes of violence and subsequent propaganda against Maduro failed to garner enough international support for the act.

The third blowback came amidst electrical blackouts in Venezuela in March when large swathes of the country went dark as Venezuela officials alleged that blackouts were part of an elaborated cyber strike by the US on the country’s power infrastructure, intended to instigate people against the ruling government, which it evidently failed to do.

The fourth blowback came on this past Tuesday, the 30th of April when Juan Guaido called for a final uprising as he appealed to the military and his supporters to dethrone what he called an ‘illegitimate government’. Within hours, governmental forces broke scattered protests with gas canisters and armored vehicles. Amidst this episode, soldiers guarding the former opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, let him go.

But instead of success  against the Maduro government, the supposed coup d’etat had been significantly quashed by government machinery, while western condemnation started floating through the media, by the fall of the day. Thus, ended another episode in Guaido’s bid for the presidency of Venezuela. But, notwithstanding the repeated attempts to overthrow Maduro, information war from both sides continues to severely divide the Venezuelans.

However, taking history of US military interventions as guide, it allows one to predict that this probable intervention would significantly shatter the already struggling US global reputation, upset regional stability, and probably lead to long term civil war in the American backyard, consequences of which will reverberate regionally and globally.

With the most recent stalemate settled as Russia, China, and Turkey continue their unfaltering support for President Maduro, it appears that Washington planners refuse to call it a day.
After four exhaustive and dangerous attempts, it seems like the US is now mulling over the last remaining option; the application of military force to shape the political outcome in Venezuela. However, taking history of US military interventions as guide, it allows one to predict that this probable intervention would significantly shatter the already struggling US global reputation, upset regional stability, and probably lead to long term civil war in the American backyard, consequences of which will reverberate regionally and globally.

The only probable pathway toward resolving this morass is to initiate political dialogue, not only with state but regional and international actors as well. It must be acknowledged here that Cuba could serve as an important political actor to motivate political change in the country as it holds significance over the many aspects of Venezuelan political affairs.

But it is paradoxical for the Trump Administration in expecting from them to deliver this foreign policy masterstroke and considering political compromise in shaping a new governing framework in Venezuela without sheer application of force. Tragedy of history, perhaps, may repeat itself once again.

Leave a Comment

Login

Welcome! Login in to your account

Remember me Lost your password?

Lost Password